Public Release: 

Exploring public fears and myths: Vaccine hesitancy, food safety in Fukushima, and bacteria

International session at AAAS 2018 Annual Meeting

Japan Science and Technology Agency


Exploring Public Fears and Myths: Vaccine Hesitancy, Food Safety in Fukushima, and Bacteria

Friday, February 16, 2018 08:00 AM - 09:30 AM
Austin Convention Center - Room 17B


In this session, key policy players striking a balance between science and society explore the interplay between facts and fears on three topical issues: vaccine hesitancy, food safety in a nuclear disaster zone, and the impacts of bacteria on human health. From Texas to Toronto to Tokyo, the gap between perceptions and scientific reality is widening in a number of areas, exacerbated by social media. Yet framing these issues as 'science vs. society' is unhelpful. Panelists in this session unravel the complex matrix of scientific and relational challenges to correcting misperceptions of science. They detail how different cultural, social, or historical contexts matter. Accepting that societal problems do not always have scientific solutions, speakers argue that communicating science demands a long-term, sustained, and participatory dialogue.


Miyoko O. Watanabe
Japan Science and Technology Agency, Tokyo, Japan

Mark Ferguson
Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland


Aidan Gilligan
SciCom - Making Sense of Science, Brussels, Belgium


Seema Kumar
Johnson & Johnson, New Brunswick, NJ

Lidia Brito
United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, Montevideo, Uruguay


Vaccine Hesitancy: A Tale of Dispassionate Experts and Selfish Parents?/p>

Thomas Hartung, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD

I will explore responsible parenting, risk and expertise vis-à-vis vaccination policy. For example, where does the individual's right to decide lie when government imposes a mandatory vaccination promising to prevent 5,000 measles cases, even while leading to 50 cases of side effects? The public plays a critical role in determining what positions policymakers will take and are influenced by media. From a science journalism perspective, I will critique the expected public deference to knowledge.

Rebuilding Trust for Science During a Crisis: Cases of Fukushima Food

Michinari Hamaguchi, Japan Science and Technology Agency, Tokyo, Japan

I will explore the gap between what the Fukushima Prefecture's food safety science tells us and public distrust. Pre-fed by ignorance and fear about GMOs, pesticides etc. the nuclear disaster was a tipping point imploding faith in science. From falling prices and farmer livelihoods to abandoned lands and jobs, this debate isn't really about whether food gives you cancer. It's about addressing modern disagreements about how food systems relate to their cultural, economic, and political contexts.

Exploding Public Myths About Good and Bad Bacteria in Our Food Supply

Catherine Buckley, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

The interaction between bacteria & humans is essential to life. Disturbances in our Microbiome are linked to 90% of disease. Research shows that good bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract play a key role in our health. Food influences their activity. Habits have changed as we embrace easy-to-prepare & ready-to-eat meals. Yet, are prepared foods too clean? What are functional foods or probiotics? How much antibiotics do we eat? Are deadly food pathogens common? Mixed messages put us all at risk.


Index Terms

policy/public engagement/public health/science communication/scientific integrity

Related Events

Track: Communication, Language, and Culture
Program: Scientific Sessions

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.